Today in 1791, at 11 A.M., the Chappe brothers sent the message “si vous réussissez, vous serez bientôt couverts de gloire” (if you succeed, you will soon bask in glory) between Brulon and Parce, a distance of ten miles, over their optical telegraph, using a combination of black and white panels, clocks, telescopes, and codebooks. Richard John in Network Nation: “The French optical telegraph relied on specially trained operators to relay coded messages along a chain of towers spaced at intervals of between 10 and 20 miles: the maximum distance by which an operator could interpret the signals using the telescopes of the day… The French optical telegraph had intrigued Morse ever since he had observed it first hand during a visit to France in the early 1830s… The superiority of the electrical telegraph over the optical telegraph was for Morse not only technical but also political. The medium was the message: the optical telegraph was monarchical, the electric telegraph republican… Unlike the optical telegraph, the electric telegraph was ‘more in consonant’ with the country’s civic ideals because, like the mail system, it could ‘diffuse its benefits alike’ to the many and the few.”
This Day In Information: Birth of The Optical Telegraph
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